by Rev. Sherry Daniels, Norfolk UMC
The Convocation for Pastors of Black Churches’ mission is and always has been the inspiration, information, and encouragement of pastors of Black Churches and those who support them. It started 20 years ago, as a “grass roots” effort and the need for such an event has evolved to the Convocation Network today and well into the future. The beauty of the United Methodist Church is the “Open Table” and the covering of Grace that we claim in Jesus’ name. John Wesley spoke about his heart being “strangely warmed” and this conference never fails to remind pastors and laity leadership that our hearts have to be warmed first in order for others to be warmed. This open table that we embrace embodies the reality that we appreciate the various ways that we worship and how we help all people to find their way to the sanctuary or better stated the House of the Lord.
VAFOCUS 2020 is an innovative process for African American congregations to be "the" catalysis in the communities where they serve. There have been to many years where we have allowed others to come into our communities and take key leadership positions--particularly, prophetic leadership and we have been silent. It is now time for us to take back our rightful place. Even in our denomination, there are times when we have been silent, when our voices should have been loud and strong. This conference reminds us that we cannot be afraid to stand up, speak out and take leadership and accountability when needed.
It involves congregations that are willing to be coached--both the clergy and laity to be the very best that they can be. It involves being creative and risk-takers in "making disciples" for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. It also focusses on community context and culture in understanding how we reach new people where they are and how we keep them and develop the leadership potential in them. While it is easy to find "cookie cutter" models, Virginia Conference has taken the time and put forth the effort to understand who we are and who God has called us to serve. And in understanding this, chosen coaches with specialized expertise to "walk alongside them" to help them move to the next level of ministry effectiveness. The goal is not to create another program, but to walk alongside congregations that will grow stronger, more impactful where they serve and relevant in their ministries. In other words, this is not just another exercise or church program, this will and is becoming a movement.
Participants at the Convocation for Pastors of Black Churches from the Virginia Conference
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